I do quite a lot of events with serving politicians. Most of them are accomplished communicators, so they tend to be able to get across what they want to say. The professional challenge is curating a suitable context and the right audience.
When Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s shadow health minister, came to Manchester we thought it would be useful to get him along to the Science Park and meet businesses with specific issues in the health and medical sector. We did that, but also drew in a wider range of people with more specific issues to raise.
He outlined what the NHS would look like under a Labour government, with a central plank of new policy to be the integration of health and social care. But he also responded to questions about plans for the high-speed rail link HS2, on which there was a robust discussion.
It’s also important to be firm, but not too deferential. They operate in a rough and tumble world and often get loads of sycophantic nodding when they meet the public in an official capacity. While I can’t hold with ripping into them for the sake of it, I do think they respond very well indeed to a firm and well-informed discussion.
Thanks to our PR company SKV we also secured some good media coverage in the Manchester Evening News, which is always helpful when you bring a politician to town.